Recently I was contacted by a reputable company in the financial industry that had many email addresses of customers and prospects but had never used them. In this case, some email addresses were collected, with permission, over a span of two to five years!
The good news is that they captured permission when collecting the email addresses. The bad news? Since these addresses were never used or validated, and some are as old as five years, there is the likelihood that many of these email addresses might not be valid anymore.
With email and permission marketing, the old phrase ‘use it or lose it’ resonates loud and clear.
With constant changes in email technology and solutions, people changing from one company or ISP to another and the change in email addresses to combat spam, it is important that organizations planning on using email as a marketing channel have a plan in place as soon as they start collecting email addresses…and permission.
For instance, repeatedly sending email to invalid addresses can increase the likelihood of all your messages being blocked as spam.
*What can be done?*
If you have an old email list and want to validate the addresses in it there are really only two choices for you:
# Create an ‘activation’ campaign to revive your relationship and confirm both the email addresses and permissions; or
# Use software or a service that can “ping” the domains and email addresses in your ‘old’ list.
The ‘easy’ route of pinging email addresses used to be more common, however, with lots of non-SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) email services such as webmail and freemail (AOL, Yahoo!, Hotmail, MSN, etc.) it may not be very effective. Depending on what percentage of your email list has emails with non-SMTP email you might find this method works with anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of your email addresses. Furthermore, if the receiving email server for an address has a catch-all email address you will find that any invalid email addresses at that domain will still come back as ‘valid’ but the message has never actually reached the person you are contacting. There is software available for this type of email validation or you can outsource to a company that has this type of software.
The ‘best’ option is creating an email campaign to target the old email addresses you want to re-activate. The most important tips for anyone taking this route is to make sure:
# the communication is actually delivered to the right person,
# is relevant to the recipient, and
# has a compelling reason for the recipient to take action (e.g. offer or incentive).
Ideally this program should be a 2- or 3-part campaign that is based on an offer, confirmation and finally inclusion in your regular email marketing communications such as newsletters, offers or alerts.
*Best Practices – 10 Tips to Keep Your Email List Clean*
If you want to make sure you are doing the best things when it comes to capturing and using email addresses in your marketing you may want to take a look at the following list of recommendations:
# Provide an offer to get people interested to ‘sign up’ for your email communications
# Capture explicit permission to email people when you collect their email address
# Ask for an ‘alternative’ email address – just in case the main one doesn’t work or if there may be a deliverability issue with it
# Confirm permission, and the email address, with an email message (this is a great time to provide the offer or information and to ask for a viral referral to someone else)
# Communicate to people how often they might receive email from your organization; give them a choice as to the frequency and content (offer different newsletters or various topics to choose from)
# Ask that recipients add your domain or email address to their address book, spam filter, personal white list or other list used in spam filtering or blocking of email messages
# Develop and stick to a contact plan; use your permission email addresses at least once per quarter
# Use targeted content and offers – ideally dynamic content – to ensure relevance and to optimize both response and conversion
# Track open, response and conversion metrics; see who is not responding and contact them with a special offer to ‘re-activate’ them
# Track bounced messages and make sure you address these in terms of recipients requiring a response, any need to change information in a specific contact record or ‘dead’ email addresses
*Bonus Tip:* Ensure you have a valid unsubscribe mechanism and that it works properly; never send email to anyone who doesn’t want it…not only is this spam but the negatives will far outweigh any positives of sending email to someone who has tried to unsubscribe
The bottom line is this: If you are going to use email as one of your marketing channels you must capture permission and you must use it regularly…or you will lose it!